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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Dillard's Inc. alleging that the national department store chain headquartered in Little Rock has failed to promote Black employees to managerial and supervisory positions because of their race since "at least January 2011."

The lawsuit makes allegations on behalf of nine employees at stores in Little Rock; North Little Rock; Montgomery, Ala.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Newman, Ga.; Cedar Hill, Texas; Biloxi, Miss.; and Metairie, La. It wants them to represent a class of "current and former African American employees who have been adversely affected by such practices."

Julie Guymon, a corporate spokesman at Dillard's headquarters, said Tuesday afternoon that "this lawsuit relates to the pending settlement of EEOC charges dating back to 2011. The settlement, pending court approval, resolves all outstanding issues between the parties."

The lawsuit says Dillard's, which has about 330 stores in 28 states, "also fails to recruit African American college students into its Executive Development Program."

It says the commission has "engaged in numerous communications" with the company to provide Dillard's "with an opportunity to remedy the discriminatory practices" but was "unable to secure ... a conciliation agreement acceptable to the Commission."

The lawsuit identifies Tanisha Erby as the "lead charging party," describing her as an employee who started working at Dillard's store at Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock as a sales associate in 2005 and who resigned in March 2014. It said Erby was denied a promotion to an auditor position in 2011, and was never promoted to a managerial or supervisory position.

The commission alleges that Dillard's doesn't post job vacancies or have a written promotion policy, and instead, "employs a 'tap on the shoulder' approach to filling vacant supervisory and managerial positions.'"

It also alleges that the department store chain "recruits and places college students as paid interns for its Little Rock Buyers Program," which eventually leads to management or supervisory positions.

Since the program began, according to the lawsuit, 40 of 41 interns who have been recruited and placed at various store locations are white.

Assigned to U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky, the lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting racially discriminatory employment practices, forbidding retaliation against employees involved in the lawsuit and requiring the business to provide equal employment opportunities for Blacks that eradicate the effects of unlawful practices.

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